This came from the Washington Post D.C. Sports B(l)og:
There’s a school of thought that everything is inherently political, which means everything in sports is inherently political, and I’m not sure I disagree. From revenue distribution to labor battles to stadium financing to racial and gender relations, sports are jam-packed with the sort of fraught larger issues that animate our most partisan battles.
And yet, I don’t think rooting for the Nationals is an inherently political decision. That’s just, like, going to Bethesda Bagels, or walking around Hains Point, or visiting the Delaware shore, maybe grabbing a slice of Grotto Pizza. It’s something you do when you live in and care about Washington, the real place where Washingtonians live because everyone lives somewhere, not the downtown theater of wicked partisan maneuvering the rest of the country imagines when they hear “Washington.”
So I always physically cringe when I read those stories about the Nats uniting divided Washington, or the Nats paralyzing the hallways of Capitol Hill, or the Nats bringing high-powered Democrats and Republicans together. Those fans exist, but that’s not whom I think of when I think of Nats fans. I think about my general practitioner, who wears his Nats jersey to work; or the retired librarian at my older daughter’s elementary school, who had the largest collection of Nats bobbleheads I’ve seen; or the Nats-loving music director at my synagogue who rides his bike to games; or the Sad Dads I sometimes meet at games, who are bureaucrats or non-profit workers or tech guys brought together by their shared memories of Nick Johnson.
Well, here’s the latest story in that vein to make me physically cringe, from Deadspin, about a certain segment of politically conservative Nats fans:
For the men who make respectable livings in the nation’s capital advancing the self-serving interests of powerful reactionaries, caring about Washington’s underachieving baseball team is as much a shared article of faith as disdain for the Clean Air Act. … The stagey and shallow and inauthentic nature of elite D.C. Nats fandom owes a lot to how stagey and shallow and inauthentic powerful D.C. people tend to seem.
Here’s what I say to that: Pfffffffttttttttt. Are there stagey and shallow and inauthentic Nats fans? I’m pretty sure there are, same as for every sports franchise. Is Brett Kavanaugh (the nominal inspiration for this post) a big Nats fan? He is, same way he roots for Maryland basketball, and for the Caps (whose owner hosted a Hillary Clinton fundraiser). Would a lifelong Washingtonian be somehow more authentic if didn’t root for his local teams?
Do the men in service of powerful reactionaries unduly care about “Washington’s underachieving baseball team?” Guys, I don’t know. I know one of the first subscribers to this newsletter was a Nats-loving writer for The Nation, and that at the last game I attended my daughter invited the daughter of two labor organizers, and that the grandfather of another of her friends is another Nats-loving labor organizer.
But that’s all besides the point, because the point is that Nats fans aren’t really making some sort of political declaration (shallow or otherwise) by expressing frustration over Spring Training camels. They’re just living in Washington. It’s like dismissing “elite” Yankees fans as wolves of Wall Street, or “elite” Lakers fans as Hollywood producers, or “elite” Astros fans as oil barons. Those are caricatures, designed to elicit a weird emotional response. Real life has texture and nuance.
Rooting for the Redskins has become tainted by politics, because so much of the debate over the team’s name broke down along party lines. That’s sad, but it happened. That hasn’t happened with Nats fandom. I hope it doesn’t. Sports fandom isn’t some beautiful, pure, politics-free state of bliss. But I do think caring about the stupid local baseball team hasn’t yet become a political statement; that Brett Kavanaugh and my real-state agent pal in Ashburn cheering for the same team is an accident of geography that says nothing about the franchise; and that calling “elite” Nats fans “stagey and shallow and inauthentic” probably feels good but just adds to the trope of D.C. as a vile swamp, which seems to make everyone (on both sides!) happy, everyone except the mostly normal people who actually live here.
Anyhow, that’s what I thought when I read the piece. Then I saw this photo The Post just ran of Mark Judge, the now famous Kavanaugh friend, the grandson of Joe Judge, one of Washington baseball’s grandest heroes.
Lol. He was, of course, visiting the Delaware shore.So maybe I’m wrong about all this. Certainly it shouldn’t make me as angry as it does.
Independent of whether or not the Nationals deserve anyone’s fandom, certainly no politician or political hack does. Politics is evil. Anyone in politics is at best profoundly wrong and at worst evil themselves, because they seek to control other people’s lives. That includes the people I vote for.